“Gordon, does God hate me?”

“He shall see of the travail of His soul
and be satisfied.”
Isaiah 53:10

Several years ago I received a phone call from someone I had not seen in many years. He mentioned his name and asked if I remembered him. I assured him that I did remember him. I had been his pastor when he was getting started in his adult life.

He then told me that he had been diagnosed with a terminal illness, was given 6-18 months to live, and asked me to visit. I quickly  made arrangements to see him.

During the time between that phone call and his death, I made weekly visits to this person’s home to counsel with him and to encourage him in the faith. Sometimes we would go out for lunch (he loved Chinese food!) and once I took him for a long drive through Mennonite country near Kitchener.

Each time we met, we considered the detail of our Lord’s suffering during the last hours before the cross. I always turned my friend to Isa.53:10 at the end of the session and quoted the words, “He shall see of the travail of His soul and be satisfied.” I assured him that the Saviour thought it was worth all His suffering just for him. In the last few months we looked at the resurrection scenes of our Lord and considered that the mighty power that raised Christ from the dead, operates in the life of every believer.

As we visited together I learned that my friend had suffered dreadful and frightening asthmatic attacks as a child that were only remedied by the doctor coming and giving him an injection. The time between the onset of the attack and the doctor’s arrival were a nightmare for the little fellow.

Adding to the terror of his asthmatic difficulties, he contracted polio and spent time in an iron lung and a wheelchair. When he tried to go to school in the wheelchair, the children at school would pull him from the chair and tease him cruelly. He had reconstructive surgery for the disease and suffered great pain during the healing process. His formative years had been filled with the horrors of surgeries, pain, separation from his family and long hospital confinements.

One day he told me that for most of his life he lived with the idea that God hated him and that was why all the pain and sorrow had come on him. But as time passed I saw a gradual change in my friend. He became strong in the faith and went from fear and doubting to being confident and enthusiastic.

Sometimes we talked about what happens to the Christian when they die and what heaven is like. Frequently he asked me to review the scene where Lazarus died and the angels came to gather him to Abraham’s bosom or the scene in Acts where Stephen experienced the merging of two worlds as he saw the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God as he was dying.

We discussed the appropriateness of Jesus’ dying prayer, “Father into Thy hands I commend my spirit.”, and that of Stephen, “Lord Jesus receive my spirit.”.

The last time I saw him was a couple of days before he left us. He was quiet, restful and he spoke little. He was watching a Christian program when I entered the room. He turned the volume down and I spoke briefly of the things we had considered the past three years. He was content, peaceful and he told me once more how he longed to go to be with Jesus and be free from the suffering and pain. He wanted to look on the One who had suffered so much for him and he wanted to say to the Saviour that he loved Him.

His view of God had gradually been transformed by the study of Christ and the evidence of His great sacrifice for sinners. Now he lives in the presence of the risen Saviour and knows how precious he is to the Friend of sinners. Did God hate this dear man who had suffered so much? Certainly not!

Now, having considered so often the Saviour’s words concerning His suffering being worth it for him, my friend can say to the Saviour, “It was worth all my suffering to see You.”

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What Goes Round Comes Round

Comfort, comfort my people,
says your God.
Isaiah 40:1

A number of years ago, in a time of personal struggle, a very fine and mature Christian brother drew alongside me and ministered grace. He was full of compassion and love as he led me through a maze of problems. I became very close to him because of his ministry to me.

This same person also drew alongside Susan within hours of her late husband’s death. Once again he was a “father in Israel” to her. His warm and loving manner did much to comfort and strengthen Susan in her very lonely times. 

A verse of a poem he left with her was carried by Susan everywhere she went for months after the death. Each time she became upset and fearful, she would pull the piece of paper out of her pocket and read it. After a short while she would only touch the paper in her pocket and the words of the verse would come to mind. The words he gave her were as follows:

I do not ask my cross to understand,
My way to see-
Better in darkness just to feel Thy hand,
And follow Thee.

Then this same person became terminally ill with cancer. Susan and I visited him and his wife and received much more comfort from them that we were able to minister.

The very organized and thoughtful way he set his affairs in order is an example to us all. He assembled all his wishes regarding every detail that needed a decision in the days and weeks before and after his passing in an “ultra” organized file.

In this way he ensured that his family would be able to follow his wishes, and his wife would be able to grieve, without the pressure of the many decisions that have to be made when someone dies. His concern for his family will comfort them for many years to come.

It was my privilege to assist at the memorial service and help the family in that way. It was a very hot summer day, and at the graveside there was a lovely tall and shady tree for the many people to gather under as we committed his remains to the ground.

We were very grateful for the tree that protected us from the blazing hot sun. It seemed as though the deceased thought of that detail too as he selected the resting-place. As we sang two choruses of his choosing – “I love you Lord” & “He is Lord” – a gentle breeze began to blow and it was as if all the angels of heaven were singing with us.

It’s hard to look on difficulty as a blessing when you’re in the midst of it, but in God’s sovereign providence we have been able to comfort others with the comfort God has given us.

2 Cor 1:3-4 –

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,
who comforts us in all our troubles,
so that we can comfort those in any trouble
with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.

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The Second Temptation Of Jesus

“I have treasured Your word in my heart,
So that I may not sin against You.
Psalm 119:11 (NASB)

“And he led Him up and showed Him
all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. 
And the devil said to Him, “I will give You all this domain
and its glory, for it has been handed over to me,
and I give it to whomever I want. Therefore if You 
worship before me, it shall all be Yours.” 
Jesus replied to him, “It is written: ‘You shall
worship the Lord your God and serve Him only.’”
Luke 4:5-8 (NASB)

“Therefore let the one who thinks he stands
watch out that he does not fall.”
1 Corinthians 10:12 (NASB)

As a new Christian in the fall of 1960, I received instruction on how a believer should deal with the world. I was advised to avoid movie theatres, never use alcoholic beverages, not to smoke, and to avoid pool halls. I readily complied with these rules.

Sadly, no one instructed me on how to read my Bible, how to pray, witness, deal with temptation, or memorize Scripture. I struggled for years searching for Christian books on these vital subjects to help me grow in grace. I learned a valuable lesson on how to deal with temptation by a study of how Jesus dealt with it.

After the spiritual high of His baptism and the public commendation by the Father, our Lord was attacked by Satan. Often Satan’s strategy is to attack when the believer is riding high after some spiritual victory. For example, Elijah dealt effectively with the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel (1 Kings 18, 19). Then he collapsed in fear of a Phoenician princess by the name of Jezebel and ran for his life.

Jonah’s powerful preaching produced the greatest national revival of a pagan nation recorded in the Old Testament. Then he developed an angry response and went outside the city of Nineveh, sat down in a pout, and waited to see what Yahweh would do in response to the nation’s repentance.

Some powerful 20th and 21st century western Christian leaders have had moral failures after they had risen to great heights in ministry.

While we must always be on guard against Satan’s clever and subtle attacks, it is when we experience a low or a high event that we are especially vulnerable. Jesus answered every temptation with an appropriate quote from Scripture.

Having portions of the Bible hidden in our memory ready for instant retrieval is a wonderful tool in addressing temptation. If you are not involved in a Scripture memorization program do some research and find a suitable one to use. Have another member of your family join you in the work.

Have you been attacked by Satan lately? Did he sneak up on you when you thought you were beyond his grasp? Remember that our Good Shepherd knows all about our weakness. He is the leader Who never gives up on His troops. He wants you back on track today so come to Him and come now.

“For He Himself knows our form;
He is mindful that we are nothing but dust.”
Psalm 103:14 (NASB)

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“I Feel Like I Am Drowning!”

“Awake, Lord! Why do you sleep?
Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever.”
Psalm 44:23 (NIV)

“Why do you hide your face 
and forget our misery and oppression?
We are brought down to the dust; 
our bodies cling to the ground.
Rise up and help us; 
rescue us because of your unfailing love.”
Psalm 44:24-26 (NIV)

As I sat listening to the child of God tell me of her incessant pain and misery my heart ached for her in such a difficult situation. The illness had gone on for some years and the medical community could offer her little help. She was feeling claustrophobic and with good reason. Finally she blurted out, “Gordon, I feel like I am drowning!”

I sought to offer some comfort from the Scriptures; God’s Word which has so many illustrations of people in pain and how they cried out to the Lord in their distress. As she spoke my mind turned to Psalm 44 and the final verses which seemed so appropriate to how this individual’s experience.

The Psalmist was complaining to the Lord that his situation felt like the Lord has fallen asleep. He called on the Lord to wake up, get up, and rescue him from his acute problems. He told the Lord that he felt as though God had hidden Himself from him and forgotten him.

Have you ever felt that way? Or have you never been in such a difficult place in life? Many people have felt just like the Psalmist and have wondered where the Lord is in such dark times. They cry out but no one seems to answer. They cannot speak of their despair lest they offend a weaker Christian friend or family member.

Yet in the darkness that surrounds the Psalmist there is a ray of hope sounded. Notice the words, “…because of your unfailing love.” The writer of this lament is still clinging to the notion that God’s love is unfailing in spite of the darkness in which he now exists. Thus he argues on that basis for the Lord to rescue him.

Can you cry out to the Lord with the same honesty of the Psalmist? This prayer is a teaching tool recorded in the Bible to help us learn to pray our way through situations that make us feel like we are drowning. Read the whole Psalm today and pray it to the Lord using the hope the Psalmist expressed concerning the Lord’s unfailing love or use some other aspect of the Lord’s character described in Scripture that you have found helpful in the past. Those descriptions of the Lord are life preservers to cling to in times when we feel we are about to drown.

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A Journey Home

“Remember that you were slaves in Egypt
and that the Lord brought you out of there
with a mighty hand…”
Deuteronomy 5:15 (NIV)

A truly remarkable priest in the Church of England in the 1700’s was John Newton, the author of the hymn Amazing Grace. Newton had lived a very evil life for many years. His mouth was full of blasphemies and profane language. His thoughts and desires were consistently evil.

During a violent storm at sea Newton finally cried out to God for mercy and through that experience of near death, became a devout Christian. Newton went on to become an Anglican minister. In his study he had a framed text that read, “Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt”.

What the man was seeking to do was to remind himself daily of the land of sin from which the Lord had removed him. Newton seemed to be constantly amazed at the grace of God toward such a blasphemer as himself. He marvelled that his voice, which once cursed and swore, could become an instrument for telling the Good News of Jesus the Saviour. He never wanted to forget the place from which God had delivered him.

Over the centuries God’s people have come to see that they were once in the bondage of sin (Egypt) and have been led out of their spiritual wilderness by their Moses (Jesus Christ).

In the New Testament Paul refers to Christians as ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20). By this he means that we live in a foreign country (earth), we represent a foreign power (God Almighty), our real home is elsewhere (heaven), we have a message for the citizens of this world (be reconciled to God).

The great longing of all good ambassadors is to represent their government well, and to eventually get back to their homeland. John Newton recognised that he had been delivered from the world of sin and was en route to heaven. As long as he lived in this world he desired to give the message of his Master to everyone who would listen to him.

The more we understand what our real mission in this life is as Christians, the easier it will be for us to accept the inevitable times of sorrow and adversity. We are on a journey to our real home which is heaven. Therefore if we lose some of the blessings of this life such as good health, a good standard of living, a happy family life, all is not lost.

Christians endure hardship in this world because we understand this life is not our heaven. This world is not our final home. We have a place in God’s eternal home (John 14:1-3). The life to come is what really matters. It is great if this life goes well for us and we live to a grand old age in relative health with a good family life. However, what really matters is to keep our eye on what is coming in the next life. A focus on that reality shall cause us to keep on in this life even if things go very wrong. Heaven is the Christian’s destination. For believers, this life is a journey and not a destination. May that thought keep you stable in the storms that have/will come your way.

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